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Russian Orthodox Church head urges peace settlement in Syria

January 21, 2014, 20:20 UTC+3 21
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MOSCOW, January 21 (Itar-Tass) - The participants in an upcoming peace conference on Syria should do their utmost to stop terror and killings of civilians in the Middle East country as soon as possible and help refugees, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church said Tuesday.

“Today the world is hopefully expecting resolute actions from you for the sake of a peace settlement of the sanguinary conflict in Syria,” Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said in a speech addressed to officials who would take part in the Geneva-2 conference that will be held on Wednesday in Montreux, Switzerland.

The patriarch also called “to do everything possible to immediately and unconditionally stop hostilities and start a Syrian national dialogue in which all political forces and the entire civil society would be able to take part.”

Geneva-2 has been pushed through by the United States and Russia. Moscow has backed the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war, and Washington has supported Syrian opposition groups.

The Russian Church leader said that “the first priority step aimed at achieving peace and stability should be the release of hostages and prevention of religious holy shrines and cultural and historical monuments from being desecrated.”

He recalled that there was yet no information on the fate of two Syrian Orthodox Christian hierarchs, Metropolitan Paul and Archbishop Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, who were abducted in April 2013 near the Syrian city of Aleppo. The mother superior and nuns of the St. Thecla convent in the town of Maaloula, reportedly captured in December 2013, have not been released yet as well, he added.

“Their immediate release would become clear evidence that the opposition is ready to seek peace and accord on Syrian soil,” Patriarch Kirill stressed.

He also urged the international community to unite forces to help numerous refugees and supply humanitarian aid to Syria. “Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have become victims of the armed confrontation. There are millions of refugees and forced migrants,” the Russian Church leader said.

“I am calling on all people of good will to do everything possible to stop an escalation of violence in Syria, stop intervention of terrorist and extremist groups, their financial and armed support from outside, and give the Syrian nation a chance to decide for itself which path to follow,” Patriarch Kirill said.

Fighting between Syrian government troops and rebels has left over 100,000 people dead and displaced millions since its start in 2011, according to UN statistics.

An international deal was mediated in September 2013 to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. The agreement prevented a likely US-led military intervention. The process of disarmament in the Syria was initiated after hundreds of civilians died in a chemical attack made on a Damascus suburb last summer.

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